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Is Roger McGuinn an exceptional musician, an American treasure...or a paranoid celebrity?

4/12/14 20:33 Home

On Thursday night I drove to Bay Shore from Port Jefferson.  I’m at the end of my rope with my GPS which I bought a few years ago.  It has the annoying tendency to bring me though all sorts of side roads and through every street light which just happens to have ability to sprint to red when I approach.  On a rare occasion I don’t mind the scenic view.  I get to see small hamlets in Pennsylvania where I travel for work, and if I have the time - I truly appreciate the faded architecture, quaint towns with empty benches on deserted sidewalks, stoic tree lined Main Street... but the GPS gives and takes.  It does not filter.  I have been in places where share panic creeps up and I pray to God to let the lights turn to green and please keep the car running.  Don't stop!  The GPS was up to some old tricks on my journey to the Bolton Center.  The good news I made it on time for the Roger McGuinn show.  I can’t complain, and on the way back home I let my sense of direction lead the way and made it home in good time.  Before I write about after the show, I have to share some thoughts.  For instance you’re waiting for the story why I feel Roger McGuinn may suffer from a severe dose of paranoia or perhaps it’s something else he’s battling with?  First, the Bolton Center is a very intimate venue, less than 265 seats, the back rows rise up so you’d need to walk up a flight of stairs to get to your seat unless you’re in the VIP section.  For a little place - you can’t go wrong taking a hike.  I took my seat, middle of the theater and scanned over the rest of the sold out crowd, I was one of the youngest. The seats were compact and had an elbow in my sides for the first half of the show.  Even a dirty look couldn't stop the physical contact.  Anyway, I should be one the youngest. This was a Roger McGuinn show for God’s sake, the man was one of the Byrds, the singer, the leader for all of those classic albums.  1965...the year I was born. He is not from my generation.  He came out playing, “So you want to be a rock n roll star,” on his Rickenbacker.  His voice was crisp and his playing blew me away.  The set which was roughly two hours with a fifteen minute intermission.  The show was presented without flaws and was full of insightful stories of how the Byrds started, from their name (Thanksgiving) to the legends they worked with and the side-notes behind their songs, the Dylan classic, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, which was the first “rock” single Columbia released.  The now classic record company was very conservative.  The story behind his single for the Easy Rider soundtrack is classic, Dylan wrote some lyrics on a napkin and Peter Fonda who starred and directed the movie brought it to Roger.  When Fonda came to his house with the napkin, he told Roger, Dylan said, “Let McGuinn work on it, he came make something out of it.”   The story how they came to write 8 Miles High was funny, and as he played the opening, he said he filled it in with some John Coltrane and Andres Sagovia…  Chestnut Mare, and songs off Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Turn, Turn, Turn. There unique Irish folk songs, old time ancient maritime songs from whaling ships as well as more stories.  He played the 12 String guitar as well as acoustic and banjo.  As the show progressed and as I felt in awe for the supreme musician.  I know it sounds like bull shit, but honestly - I felt it was an honor - to be in his audience.  McGuinn is an American treasure.  I was amazed at his mastery of the guitar.  And I mean it.  I’d like to see him again.  Alright, so you may know I like autographs.  I heard McGuinn does not come out after the show to sign at his merchandise table.  There were some signed CD’s and posters for sale. Not too expensive, but I brought an album with me which I left in the car. After the concert I head out to my car which I parked behind the theater.  I sat down, turned the key and looked at my album.  I felt that tug; he’s still here and you can wait outside and…maybe get him to sign it?  I walk over the stage door in back and figure; I’ll knock and see if I can get this done.  There were two guys standing off to the side.  I bang.  “What are you doing?”  I was going to see if I can get this signed.  “No, you can’t do that; you’re going to piss him off!”  Will he come out there?  “We’ll see…just wait.”  While waiting with the two other men who were younger than me, I heard their stories they exchanged with one another, meeting Sting and Bono, seeing President Carter last week.  One of them tells us - he has more than a thousand autographs and pictures.  Let’s call him Celebrity.  I feel this is a good sign, since Celebrity knows what he’s doing and I’m going home with signed album.  He shows us pictures of him and Sandra Bullock, Robert Deniro, Brad Pitt. I kid you not.  How do you?  He was coy,“Friends tell me where to go.”  It was getting later and getting a little cooler standing outside in the night air; a truck is backed up to the stage door.  One of the employees for the theater opens the stage door and tells us, “He’s not signing.”  Celebrity tells him, “I just want a picture, I can ask - right?”  The employee shrugs his shoulders giving us the impression, we don't get it...Roger McGuinn is a different guy, he’s not doing anything.  Keep in mind, there were…one…two…three of us.  That is all.  Not a big crowd to swarm over the rock n roll star.  What’s up?  But remember I read McGuinn does not sign.  His wife, Camille is his manager and as I learned – she is his main security guard.  I encountered her direct and blunt orders.  She does not let anyone close to him. Before the brief sighting outside with the legend, his instruments were packed into the truck.  Celebrity tells me, “Don’t try to shake his hand.”  I nod.  I get it; he’s a musician and does not want my big claws to squeeze too tight and perhaps bust a knuckle or something.  I get it.  The back door opens and his wife, all 5 foot 6 storms up to us, waving her index finger, shaking her head,  “No, it’s not happening!  Good night!”  Being the tallest of the three, she comes up to me… gently but sternly pushes me away.  Why?  I ask her.  I just want one autograph.  And this is what she repeated over and over which shocked me, “It’s too dangerous.  It’s too dangerous.  No!  It’s too dangerous!”  While I am being pushed away, I see the hunched over rock n roll star escape from the open stage door and flee into the waiting truck, his door closes and he is secure.  Who is this?  I saw this once before when I saw President Obama in Philadelphia.  That’s another story.  This is Roger McGuinn, 1965, The Byrds, Turn...turn...turn...and his wife (maybe she was a former security guard and likes the role of enforcer) she gets in the truck and they drive off.  Roger waves.  That was nice.  I waved my album back to him and asked the rock star, just one autograph?  The truck drove off.  Celebrity calls his wife a bitch.  No, I don’t think so.  She was tough.  She loves her husband and wants to protect him.   And I tell them as they walk away, McGuinn is from the John Lennon generation.  And they walk away not knowing what I was trying to convey.  Take a look at what happened to Lennon.  Mark David Chapman, was one Lennon’s fans.  Maybe Roger is not taking any chances?  Even if it was only three of us; I’m sorry to have encountered such a negative reaction from him and his wife.  Most of the artists I meet are grateful for the recognition.  Not for Rock N Roll star, who does not have to sign anything or say a word.  I understand.  Wave to the crowds.  All three of us who stood there driven by vanity.  It was a lesson learned for me as well.  I should have enjoyed the show and went home with my album, and respected the privacy of the man and his wife. 


Dang, I still had some questions I wanted to ask him for this blog.  Oh well…

Thank you for reading this




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